The United States Navy has over 336,000 active-duty members and offers a wide variety of career paths to young men and women who want to serve their country. In this article, we’ll discuss possible career paths and requirements to join.
Careers in the Navy
There are over one hundred and fifty roles to choose from within the United States Navy, and each one of them is open to both men and women. Fields of work include:
- Electronics & Technology
- First Responder
- Industrial & Mechanical
- Intelligence, Information, & Cryptology
- Science & Engineering
- Special Operations
Some high-priority roles come with higher enlistment bonuses. You may also ship out sooner than your peers. These roles vary radically and include everything from musicians to explosive ordinance disposal technicians. You can learn more about high-priority roles and additional roles here.
Length of Service
Enlisted positions typically require an initial service commitment of four years, but positions involving longer-term training may involve five- or six-year obligations.
How to Join the Navy
To be eligible to join the Navy, you must:
- Be between the ages of 17 and 34 (17-year-old applicants must have parental consent)
- Have a high school diploma
- Pass a physical medical exam
- Be a U.S. citizen or resident
- Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test with a score of 35 or higher
People who have been convicted of a felony as an adult or a juvenile for offenses involving violence, domestic violence, illegal drugs, or sexual misconduct are disqualified from serving in the Navy. Dependency on illegal drugs or a history of drug use or alcohol abuse can also disqualify you from service.
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test
When you meet with a recruiter, they will ask you about your health, education, marital status, drug use, and arrest record. If they determine that you’re qualified for further processing, they’ll schedule your Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
You will need to pass the four principal subsections (Word Knowledge, Paragraph Comprehension, Arithmetic Reasoning, and Mathematics Knowledge) with a score of 35, which corresponds to the 35th percentile of a nationally-representative sample of 18 to 23 year olds who took the test in 1997.
After you test for the first time, you must wait one month to retake the test. If you want to retest a second time, you must wait another month. After that, you won’t be eligible to retake the ASVAB for another six months. Your scores may be used for enlistment for up to two years from the date of testing.
Your scores on the ASVAB subtests will be used to determine the best job for you in the military.
The ASVAB test will take place at a Military Entrance Processing Station. There are 65 such stations located in nearly every state. If you don’t live near a Military Entrance Processing Station, the test can also be administered at a Military Entrance Test (MET) site. The nearest location to you might be a federal government office building, National Guard armory, or Reserve center. Sometimes the test is offered by schools.
The ASVAB is made up of a number of subtests, which are designed to measure an applicant’s aptitude in four domains: Verbal, Math, Science and Technical, and Spatial. It usually takes three to four hours two complete the entire test. The subtests include:
- General Science: Knowledge of physical and biological sciences
- Arithmetic Reasoning: Ability to solve Arithmetic word problems
- Word Knowledge: Ability to select the correct meaning of words presented in context and to identify the best synonym for a given word
- Paragraph Comprehension: Ability to obtain information from written passages
- Math Knowledge: Knowledge of high school mathematics principles
- Electronics Information: Knowledge of electricity and electronics
- Auto Information: Knowledge of automobile technology
- Shop Information: Knowledge of tools and shop terminology and practices
- Mechanical Comprehension: Knowledge of mechanical and physical principles
- Assembling Objects: Ability to determine how an object will look when its parts are put together
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The ASVAB Testing Program recommends that aspiring applicants take a solid core of courses in mathematics, English, and science in high school and/or college. Taking technical courses will also help with performance on the Electronics Information, Shop Information, Auto Information, and Mechanical Comprehension subtests.
Their advice for preparing for and taking the test is much the same as for any exam:
- Read the directions for each test carefully before you begin the test.
- Read each question carefully before selecting your answer.
- Pay attention to the time — don’t spend too much time on one individual question if that means you won’t have time to answer later questions.
- When you don’t know the answer to a question, try to rule out as many incorrect choices as you can, and then make an educated guess from the remaining answers.
Calculators are not allowed during the exam.
You might find yourself taking the pen-and-paper version of the test – the P&P ASVAB – or the computer-administered test – the CAT-ASVAB. If you take the pen-and-paper version, you should answer every question. If you run out of time, fill in random guesses for the remaining items; there is no penalty for guessing. If you have time, you’ll have the chance to review your answers at the end. You’ll need to be more careful with the CAT-ASVAB, as you will not have the opportunity to change your answer to any of the questions once you’ve moved on. The computer-administered version of the test does penalize random answers, so just do the best that you can with the time allotted.
You can find sample questions for each section here.
Navy Boot Camp
Navy boot camp training was recently extended from eight to ten weeks at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. Recruits rise early each day and learn all of the basic information they’ll need to know about life on a ship. Initial swim qualifications begin the first week. If you have wisdom teeth, they will generally be removed in week two, followed by two days to rest.
Recruits learn how to stand watch, handle a pistol, get a ship underway, and moor it to a pier. They go through man-overboard drills and practice their marksmanship.
You cannot quit boot camp. At this point, recruits are already enlisted and receiving wages. If a recruit fails their physical fitness test, swim qualification, or other tests, they will be remediated or set back in training by up to one month.
You don’t need to be able to swim in order to join the Navy, but you will need to learn during your time at boot camp in order to pass the Navy Physical Readiness Test. The swim test consists of three events: a jump into a pool, a 50-yard swim, and a prone float for five minutes.
In order to pass the Navy Physical Readiness Test at boot camp, you must also complete:
MEN 17-19 WOMEN 17-19
50 situps in 2 minutes 50 situps in 2 minutes
42 pushups in 2 minutes 19 pushups in 2 minutes
1.5 mile run in 12:30 1.5 mile run in 15:30
The full test also includes a forearm plank exercise. Scoring has five levels: outstanding, excellent, good, satisfactory/probationary, and failure.
The Navy vs. Marines and Coast Guard
The Navy and the Marine Corps are two separate branches of the United States military or the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Let’s take a quick look at what each one is responsible for.
The Navy has over 336,000 active-duty seamen who are responsible for protecting seas and oceans beyond the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction. TNavy warships provide the runways for aircraft to land and take off when at sea. Navy SEALs (sea, air, and land) are the special operations force for this branch. All service members are known as sailors. The maximum age of enlistment is 39.
The Marine Corps operates as a quick reaction force that provides land, sea, and air support for the other branches during missions. It is technically a part of the Navy but is structured more similarly to the U.S. Army. The United States Marine Corps has over 182,000 active-duty service members. The maximum age for joining the Marine Corps is 28. All service members are called Marines.
Most sailors will never be shot at or engage in hand-to-hand combat, whereas many marines are the first on the ground when conflicts arise. They’re the “tip of the spear” of the military, and their training places an emphasis on combat. Their basic training is longer and more difficult, and they’re much more likely to see combat during their military career.
The Coast Guard provides national security and search and rescue for America’s waterways, seas, and coast. The United States Coast Guard has over 40,000 active-duty personnel. It’s responsible for stopping drug smugglers and others breaking maritime law. It enforces marine environmental protection laws. The maximum age for joining the Coast Guard is 31.
If you want to become a Navy SEAL (a member of a sea, air, and land team), you can ask your local recruiter to help you find a Navy Special Operations mentor. This former SEAL will help you prepare for the physical screening test. Before you can begin boot camp and progress to Basic Underwater Demolition (SEAL training), you’ll need to meet the following fitness requirements:
PST Event Minimum Standards Recommended Standards
500-yard swim 12:30 8-9 minutes
Push-ups 75 80-100
Sit-ups 75 80-100
80-100 15 15-20
1.5-mile timed run 9:30 9 minutes
When you test, the best scores will be submitted to a nationwide competition, and the best candidates will be selected first. All recruits will report to Great Lakes, Illinois, to attend basic military training (boot camp). Prospective SEALS then undergo an extensive physical training program for six to eight weeks.
Review: How to Join the Navy
Here are some pros and cons of joining the United States Navy:
- Stable income and job security
- Free healthcare
- World travel
- Free housing
- Paid vacations
- Free education
- Retirement pay after twenty years
- Minimum four-year commitment
- Pay may be lower than comparable civilian jobs
- Shifts of twelve hours or more are common
- You lose the right to decide where you live
- Deployments of up to nine months
If you want to join the United States Navy, you’ll need to:
- Contact a recruiter
- Report to a Military Entrance Processing Station
- Take the ASVAB
- Undergo a physical exam
- Pass the Naval Physical Readiness Test
- Take the Oath of Enlistment
- Complete boot camp
From there, you’ll begin the Navy job that you’re best suited to. Contact a recruiter to learn more, but remember that recruiters have quotas to meet. It’s best to do your own research as well. We recommend that you speak to enlisted sailors to learn more about what it’s like to join the Navy.